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12 More Popular Romance Tropes

12 More Popular Romance Tropes

Last week, I introduced the concept of tropes, and discussed ten popular romance tropes.

Today I’m introducing more popular romance tropes, and giving some examples.

Best Friend’s Sibling

The hero falls for his best friend’s (usually younger) sister, or the heroine falls for her best friend’s (usually older) brother.

This is similar to the Friends to Lovers trope, as the hero and heroine usually have a preexisting relationship through the best friend/sibling. The two often get together after one returns to their hometown (e.g. during an illness, after the death of a family member, after a relationship or marriage breakup, or after serving in the armed forces).

Ugly Duckling

The unattractive heroine finds true love after undergoing a makeover and emerging as a physical beauty.

This can be a difficult trope to make work as a writer, especially as a Christian writer. Readers don’t want to read about a hero who is so shallow that he isn’t interested in the heroine except for her looks, which means the hero needs to see and want a relationship with the heroine even before her transformation.

While the Ugly Duckling is usually the heroine, the story could be twisted so the hero gets the makeover, as in the show Beauty and the Geek. However, the same challenges still stand: readers are not going to relate to a heroine who doesn’t value the inner man.

Other Man/Other Woman

This is similar to the Love Triangle. The hero and heroine meet and start a relationship, which is disrupted by the reapperance of an ex. This could be an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend, an ex-fiance, or an ex-spouse. The ex makes it clear they want to get back together, which often scares off the current partner. The main character has to chase off the ex and convince their new love that the ex is history.

The challenge with this trope is similar to that of the Love Triangle: if the OM/OW is a likeable character, then some readers will want them to get back together. But if the OM/OW isn’t likeable, the readers wonder why they got together in the first place and question the judgement of the heroine/hero for ever being with that person (especially as the OM/OW often ends up being a cheater, drug addict, or other miscreant).

Example: Central to Nowhere by DJ Blackmore

(One tip I’ve heard for authors writing Other Woman: don’t make her completely unlikeable, because your readers and publisher might decide she needs to be the heroine in your next book.)

Marriage of Convenience

The hero and heroine agree to marry out of necessity, then fall in love. This is a common trope in historical fiction, where it can be that the couple are brought together by tragic circumstance (e.g. a widower wants a mother for his children) or forced together by awkward circumstances and cultural norms (e.g. in Victorian times, couples who spent time alone together without a suitable chaperone were often forced to marry to protect her reputation. Or, at least, that’s what fiction would have us believe).

Example: Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke

Secret Romance

The hero and heroine meet and start a relationship, but keep it secret from friends and family for some reason. This isn’t such a popular trope in Christian romance, probably because Christian readers don’t like to see characters lying to each other or to their family and friends without good reason.

Example: Romeo and Juliet

Love at First Sight

The hero and heroine meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after. In real life, some people believe in love at first sight, but others say it’s not possible: that love is a choice, or that love grows as two people develop their relationship. They say love at first sight is attraction at best (and more likely lust), as we can’t truly love someone we don’t know. As such, Love at First Sight has to be managed carefully in Christian romance.

Reunited Lovers

A couple are separated by forces outside their control—overbearing parents, an accident, a war. In some historical romances, one character travels (e.g. to America), promising to send for the other but something goes wrong. Anyway, the two meet again, years later, and have the opportunity to rekindle their relationship.


Two strangers are trapped together in an elevator or a snowstorm (or anything that forces the hero and heroine to spend time together with no interruptions). They form a relationship, continue that relationship after they are rescued, and live happily ever after.

Example: Danger in the Shadows by Dee Henderson

Mail Order Bride

Mail order bride stories are typically set in the American West, between 1870 and 1900. Women were scarce, so men would advertise for brides, correspond with them, then pay their train fares from some eastern city to the West. As such, it’s a marriage of two almost-strangers in the nineteenth century of online dating.

Example: Escape to the West series by Nerys Leigh

Opposites Attract

Two people who appear to be polar opposites are attracted to each other, and have to work out if their relationship can overcome their differences. This is a popular trope, as opposites give instant conflict … which means plenty of external tension.

Example: Then There Was You by Kara Isaac

Bad Girl/Boy

The “good” character (often the heroine) is attracted to someone her parents or friends consider to be an inappropriate choice—the “bad boy”. This gives two levels of conflict—the hero may have to convince the heroine he’s “good enough” (or vice versa), and they both have to convince others that their relationship can succeed despite their differences.

Example: The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

Soul Mate

The hero and heroine are destined to be together by fate/the gods/some other external and usually supernatural force. If either the hero or heroine is in any other relationship, it is destined to fail. The Soul Mate trope is common in urban fiction or paranormal romance, where it seems that all good werewolves and many other werebeings readily accept that they are somehow supernaturally linked to one other being.

This is an uncommon trope in Christian fiction, perhaps because it shows a preference for predestination vs. free will, and modern Christian fiction tends to avoid such theological questions.


The advantage of using tropes is that readers are familiar with them and often have favourite tropes they will read over and over. The disadvantage of using tropes is that readers are familiar with them, and can become bored because the trope is too predictable.

One solution to this problem is to twist tropes (e.g. have a male Ugly Duckling), or use multiple tropes. Many of the tropes do work well together. For example, a Fake Romance may be coupled with a Belated Epiphany, where the fake relationship comes to an agreed end, then one main character realises s/he actually does love the other.

Can you think of any romance tropes I’ve missed? What’s your favourite romance trope?

10 Popular Romance Tropes

10 Popular Romance Tropes (An #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop Post)

Most genre fiction uses some kind of trope as a shorthand way to hook a potential reader. So what is a trope?

What is a Trope?

Tropes are plot devices, characters, images, or themes that are incorporated so frequently in a genre that they’re seen as conventional. (Source: Reedsy)

Many genres have tropes. For example, consider any Star Wars movie. They all use The Chosen One trope—a main character with some kind of natural advantage that enables them to defeat their foe. Annikin Skywalker has The Force. Luke Skywalker has The Force. Rei (not Skywalker … yet) has The Force. And that enables them to defeat the evil around them. Okay, so Annikin then joins the forces of evil, but that sets up Rogue One and the second (first?) trilogy of movies.

And we’re still waiting for the end of Rae’s story, but that’s another trope: Good Defeats Evil (even in the face of unbelieable odds).

What is a romance novel?

A romance has to end with an “emotionally satisfying ending”. If it doesn’t, then it’s not a romance (according to Romance Writers of America, and romance readers everywhere). Most readers take this to mean a “happy ever after” (HEA) ending, although some general romances will have a less final “happy for now” (HFN) ending.

Below, I’ve listed some of the common romance tropes along with a brief definition.

Note that in Christian fiction, any reference to “lovers” is meant in the Victorian sense, not the modern sense! Also, Christian romance is always hero and heroine, and it’s implied that the “happy ever after” ending is “will you marry me”, not “do you want to move in with me and my teenager and our new puppy” (which sounds to me more like live-in unpaid housekeeper than forever love).

Yes, some Christian romances have a “happy for now” ending, but those tend to be stories where the hero and heroine hadn’t met before the story started, and which take place over a short space of time (days or weeks). In these cases, it’s not reasonable to expect the couple to be ready to make a lifelong committment, although the implication is that’s where the relationship is headed.

So what are some popular romance tropes?

Friends to Lovers

The hero and heroine are long-time friends, but come to realise their feelings are more than mere friendship. The challenge with this story is that one or both of the main characters wants to take the relationship to the next level but is afraid to make the first move because they’re afraid of ruining a good friendship.

This is one of my favourite tropes, both because it represents my own journey and because I think it’s important that marriages are built on a base of friendship and respect, not attraction and lust. This is especially true in Christian romance, where readers expect the characters to model Biblical values.

Example: True Devotion by Dee Henderson

Enemies to Lovers

The hero and heroine already know each other, but don’t like each other. Those reasons seem rational at first, but as the couple get to know each other, they realise they had a false impression of the other person. These stories don’t have the awkward “do I make a move and risk ruining a friendship?” question, because their is no friendship to lose. As such, they are often fun stories … especially as the reader knows the couple are destined to be together long before they work it out.

Example: Maybe It’s You by Christy Hayes

Unrequited Love

This is similar to the Friends to Lover trope in that the hero and heroine are long-time friends. The difference is that one has been in love with the other for a long time—often years. The story centres around the lover’s uncertainty over whether to tell the friend or not, and the friend’s slow journey to realising they see the lover as something more than a friend.

These stories can often be bittersweet, as one perfectly nice character has had to watch the person they love date other people, and sometimes even get married.

Example: Sweet on You by Becky Wade

Fake Romance

Two people fake a romance to satisfy some external plot point e.g. a character wants a date to a family function. The couple spend more and more time together, and eventually realise they love each other. This can be complicated when one or more of their family/friends knew it was a fake romance, so the couple then have to convince the unbelievers that their relationship is for real.

Example: I’m sure I’ve read books with this trope, but can I remember any? No. Can you?

Love Triangle

One main character is forced to choose between two possible partners. This can go two ways:

  • The main character has to choose between two wonderful people (so a perfectly nice character ends up getting hurt).
  • The main character thinks they’re in love with A (or is in an existing relationship with A), but is also attracted to B (who is much nicer than A).

The problem with the love triangle is that if you’re not careful, half your audience will be convinced the story ends with the wrong couple getting together.

Examples: Last Summer by Brandy Bruce

Forbidden Love

The hero and heroine meet and fall for each other, only to find there is some external reason why they can’t be together. This could be a family feud, religious differences, or racial differences (especially in historical fiction, where there were often laws prohibiting interracial marriage).

Note that Christian romance readers expect the hero and heroine to both be Christians, so a romance between a Christian and a non-Christian would fall into this category, and readers would expect the non-Christian to have become a Christian before the end of the story.

Example: Romeo and Juliet

Secret Royal/Billionaire/Star

A regular member of the public meets and falls for a member of royalty, a billionaire, or a famous actor or sportsperson without knowing who they are. The Secret person likes being treated as a person instead of as a title/wallet, and the two start a relationship. There is the inevitable dustup when the regular Joe/Joelene finds out their partner’s true identity before they can get their happy-ever-after ending.

It used to be secret millionaire, but a million dollars doesn’t sound as impressive as it used to!

Example: Managing the Rock Star by Emma St Clair

Secret Baby

A woman falls pregnant but never tells the father that she’s had his baby, usually because they are somehow separated and she never gets the chance. Months or years later, they meet again and the father works out his ex had his baby and never told him.

I went through a phase of reading and enjoying secret baby romances, but then the improvements in technology and social media made it harder to believe that the woman couldn’t tell the father she’d had his baby. This meant she hadn’t, which meant she had to have a good reason for not telling him … and many didn’t.

Example: Return to Baragula by Mary Hawkins

Belated Love Epiphany

One main character realises they love the other after the other character has left the city or country (who left because they realised they were the victim of Unrequited Love). This epiphany is followed by the late-to-the-party main character chasing the other through the airport or across the world to declare their love.

Example: Close to You by Kara Isaac

Second Chance Romance

A couple break up for actual reasons (as opposed to being separated for reasons beyond their control), then meet again months or years later, discover they still have feelings for each other, and try to rekindle their relationship. This usually means they have to work through whatever obstacles prompted them to break up in the first place … and sometimes some new obstacles as well.

Example: Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter


So there you have ten popular romance tropes. I’ll be back next week with more. What are your favourite—or least favourite—tropes in your favourite genre?

This post is part of the monthly Author ToolBox Blog Hop, organised by Raimey Gallant.

We now have over 40 blogs participating. To find more Blog Hop posts: